Jul 07 2014
A week ago these bugs were everywhere, so many that they made the news.
I noticed them on June 30 when I saw more than twenty tiny dark bugs perched on the outside of my office window. What bugs were these, why were there so many of them, and why were they on the window?
Other people encountered the bugs too — at poolsides, on car roofs, in backyards — and they were scared because the bugs looked like engorged ticks.
Though close in size to ticks, I could tell these were not because:
- Ticks are Arachnids, related to spiders. They have 8 legs. These bugs have 6.
- Ticks don’t have wings. These bugs have wings under their elytra (wing covers) and though they weren’t flying very much I saw a few of them raise their wing covers and suddenly fly away.
- Ticks do not have snouts. These bugs have snouts(!) like inflexible elephants’ trunks.
- Ticks never swarm .. and that’s what these bugs were doing.
Meanwhile public fear and misunderstanding prompted KDKA to call the Allegheny County Health Department’s Entymologist, Bill Todaro for information. He knew what they were right away: Nut and Acorn Weevils(*). Also called billbugs, they eat only plants, never bite people, and swarm in late June because they’re looking for a member of the opposite sex to mate with.
Here’s an annotated closeup of one of the billbugs on my office window. This is a view of his underside because he was outside on the glass.
So, they were really nothing to worry about. They were courting. We just never noticed them before.
(photos by Kate St. John)
UPDATE 18 June 2015: Ben Coulter and Monica Miller have identified this weevil as Odontopus calceatus, a.k.a. Yellow Poplar Weevil, not Curculio as I read in the paper last year(*). Don’t believe everything you read in the paper!